Georgia deer baiting bill passes Senate, but shots

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Hunters may bait, but it won't be a too-easy shot

By BILL TORPY, Atlanta Journal-Constitution Staff Writer

4/13/02

They want to kill, er, harvest more deer below the gnat line. And the state in recent years has virtually opened the spigot to make that happen, adding days to the hunting calender, upping the limits, and allowing unisex (the prey, not the hunters) hunting days.

But the state House on Friday heavily weakened an effort by South Georgia lawmakers to permit hunters to spread feed on the ground to lure the beasts to their demise.

Lawmakers pushing the bill were labeled as lazy hunters, the kind who'd go to a drive-through window and ask for Venison McNuggets. Those resisting the baiting effort were called elites and two-faced. The debate this week got long-winded and sometimes ugly -- even meaner than that surrounding hard-fought bills like the one to prevent predatory lending.

But, then again, this is a state where 300,000 armed citizens chase 1.1 million frightened deer. So any tweaking of said laws will get emotional.

"[Baiting] is a bad, unethical way to go about it," said Rep. Bob Lane (D-Statesboro), the House Game and Fish Committee chairman, who headed off the effort. "It sends out a message that if you can't do it fair and square, cheat a little bit."

Baiting proponents wanted to let hunters set up their stands 25 yards from the bait. The Senate approved, and Lane, in fact, did throw the baiters a few kernels. The bill that passed permits hunters to set up their stands 200 yards from the feed. But they can't have a clear sightline.

Lane said baiting spreads disease by bringing deer in nose-to-nose. But mostly, he said passing the baiting law would give the anti-hunting zealots ammunition. In fact, the deer population has leveled off since a 1990 high of about 1.3 million, he said. Last year, 446,000 deer were killed, officials said.

Rep. Greg Morris (D-Vidalia), one of the bill's sponsors, said it would have spurred economic development, bringing out-of-state hunters to bag Georgia deer.

"Working-class hunters with small acreage want this," said Morris. The law currently lets landowners plant grain to attract deer. You just can't throw it around.

Morris pooh-poohed arguments that baiting makes for lazy hunters: "It's just like if you go to a restaurant, you're lazy -- rather than cooking a meal at home."
 

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